Late-night post Nightmare angst-drabbling.
He doesn't know where he strayed from the path, but the fault is his. He understands that by marrow and core. The faultlines of the places where he let Sam and the world crack are all wrought by his own hand.
He sees, in the reflections thrown by heat-warped windows, how he went wrong.
He had tuned Sam out over time, right and sane and safe Sam, brushed off while Dean shouldered his way ahead because it was mission and duty and Sam was right hand and shield but still secondary. Quiet, Sam. Don't worry. Sam was not taken seriously. Not as man or hunter or counterpart. The hunter went first and the man dwindled while Dean looked the other way, because Sam felt things too hard, postulated aloud about everything, looked on the bright side. Sam, steady but bleeding unseen, damaged by the work and the road behind and a burden too hard for one heart to carry. It had taken two but Dean's half had gone to the road ahead and some idea of a terminus.
The terminus of everything matched steps to his and cast a shadow of affection somewhere he still understood it, but he turned his head one time too many to the gathering dark and not to the candle melting in his hands.
I did not cherish, I did not safeguard.
He had carried Sam out of the house as an infant but had let the adult slip out of his arms. All for nothing, all of the struggling; all for nothing, his run from the house. In the absence of his attention, other hands had reached in since and taken hold. Silent, gradual, profane.
The house is burning again and Sam is rafters and ash, framework against the twilight but so flame-hollow; the candle, left unattended so long, sweeps away the dark by consuming all. Duty makes Dean's empty hands tremble now, and he hesitates in the face of a loss not solely his. Understanding comes miles and calendar marks too late. Unsaved, dishonored, fallen.
Dean says, monster . Sam says wait .
Love is a hostage situation.
Sam says, come along .
Dean still owes his half. The final blow is nothing more than a softly spoken yes as he walks into the burning house.